Irish Hierarchy’s Statement on the Outbreak of the Second World War
Posted by shane
The following statement was issued in 1939 by the Irish hierarchy at their October meeting in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth:
Twenty-one years ago the most widespread and destructive war in history was brought to an end by a solemn pact. But, though war had ceased, true peace, that real and fruitful tranquility desired by all, had not yet been attained.
The terms of the solemn pact were registered in official instruments, but the conditions for true and lasting peace were not stamped on the hearts of men. True peace is the fruit of the two great Christian virtues of justice and charity; but peoples and individuals, to an extent previously unheard of, not only ignored the dictates of the Christian virtues, but even set aside the Founder of Christianity Himself.
The hates fostered during the years of bitter conflict continued. The law of force, which reigned supreme during the war, did not abdicate its throne when peace was proclaimed. Human dignity and human personality counted for little; force alone and numbers prevailed.
Unrestrained lust for power and rule, masquerading under the guise of the public weal and patriotism, was a fruitful source of discord among nations. For love of country and of race, through it reaches to many deeds of virtue and heroism when guided by the dictates of Christianity, will, when transgressing the bounds of right and justice, end in widespread injustice and iniquity.
Our late Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, by voice and pen and by the prayers which he besought from his faithful children, laboured strenuously and indefatigably to provide a remedy for these evils by recalling rulers and subjects to true Christian principles; and our present Holy Father, during the short time that he has occupied the Throne of Peter, has been just as assiduous as his great predecessor in his work for peace.
Their efforts and other similar ones, although they exercised a great and beneficient influence, did not attain the desired success. The seeds of discord, sown in such well-prepared soil, have borne fruit. Some of the chief nations of Europe, long trembling on the brink of war, have at last been hurled into the abyss.
The evils, physical and moral, which are begotten by and accompany war are truly terrible, and will, in this present conflict, if it is waged to the bitter end — considering the tremendous development of modern engines of destruction and the deterioration in the moral fibre of humanity — exceed anything which has been hitherto experienced. They will be felt by all countries — in an overwhelming degree by those that are directly engaged in this conflict, but to a considerable extent also by those that are not.
What should be our attitude towards this great catastrophe which has befallen the world and towards the evils which follow from it? The greater part of our country — we regret not all — is not directly involved in this conflict. We experience, however, and shall experience increasingly, its evil effects.
Our first reaction to the sufferings which the war may bring us should be to supernaturalise them by accepting them in submission to God’s will and as a penance for our sins.
Although the malice or folly of men is the direct cause of war, yet it is Catholic teaching that God may, and sometimes does, permit and use war as a scourge for human wickedness. By accepting our present sufferings in a penitential spirit, we are certainly appeasing God’s anger on account of our sins, and may be warding off from ourselves even greater evils than those that now assail us.
Our thoughts, however, should not be of our own sufferings merely; they should embrace also the far greater sufferings of the peoples who are directly engaged in this conflict. We should sympathise with these peoples and pray God to comfort them. They are our brothers, children of the same heavenly Father, destined by Him for the same eternal reward.
Especially should our sympathies and our prayers be active on behalf of those of our own Faith, who are united to us by the still closer bond which arises from membership of the Mystical Body of Christ. One great Catholic people, the Polish nation, have already suffered the extreme ruthlessness of war. We should extend to them our deep sympathy, and pray that God may alleviate the miseries and afflictions with which they have been visited.
Our main pre-occupation in the presence of this great catastrophe of war should be to labour and to pray for a true and lasting peace. As we have already said, peace is the fruit of justice and charity; and hence we should strive earnestly to imbue our activities with the principles of these two great virtues. Charity as well as justice, sympathy and toleration, goodwill and forbearance, mutual understanding and co-operation should characterise our intercourse with our fellowmen.
Prayer is an urgent duty during these days of stress and trial.
Let us humbly and confidently address the Almighty and implore His infinite mercy so to dispose things that a truly Christian peace may be quickly given the world. This can be most effectively done through attendance at Mass, reception of Penance and the Blessed Eucharist, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and recitation of the Rosary; and we earnestly recommend the frequent and fervent practice of these great devotions.
For the duration of the war we prescribe that the prayer for peace be said in the Mass as an Oratio imperata tanquam pro re gravi. We direct also that a special triduum of prayers for peace, the details of which are to be determined by individual pastors and rectors, should take place on the three days preceding the Feast of Christ the King, and we urge the faithful who can conveniently do so to approach the table of the Lord on the feast itself and receive with great devotion and fervour His Body and Blood.
Finally we remind citizens that it is a patriotic duty in this great crisis to place the common good above every private interest, to agree generously to the sacrifices which it may demand, and to support loyally the measures which the constituted authorities may deem necessary to promote it.
Given at Maynooth on 10th October, 1939.
Signed on behalf of the archbishops and bishops of Ireland.
+JOSEPH CARDINAL MacRORY,
Archbishop of Armagh,
Primate of All Ireland.
Bishop of Limerick.
Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.